BELGRADE – US Vice President Joe Biden warned the Kosovar government Wednesday of the “cancer” of corruption, during his first visit to the Balkans since 2009.
“I’m here today to affirm the United States is going to continue to stand with the people of Kosovo on your journey to become a prosperous, peaceful and multi-ethnic democracy,” he told reporters.
He underscored, though, the dangers of corruption — what he called “a cancer that eats at the fabric of every society where it exists. In short, it jeopardizes everything Kosovo hopes to achieve, hopes to become, hopes for its future.”
Members of the opposition in parliament repeatedly have released tear gas in sessions over the past year to protest controversial deals with Serbia and Montenegro. Berlin-based Transparency International ranked Kosovo 103rd out of 168 countries on its “Corruption Perceptions Index” of 2015.
Pristina must ratify a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and enable the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in Kosovo, otherwise it will lose US support, US Vice President Joseph Biden said Wednesday.
At a press conference in Pristina after meeting with Kosovo President Hasim Taci, Biden said the demarcation agreement and the establishment of the CSM would have a positive impact on the region.
“I know the scars of war are raw … but reconciliation is necessary,” Biden said, adding that Pristina must maintain close cooperation with its neighbours.
He said Taci and Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa were positive on continuing the EU-facilitated dialogue with Belgrade, and added that Pristina had the obligation and the responsibility to meet the obligations undertaken in Brussels.
Biden urged Serbia and Kosovo to make every effort to implement the normalization agreement.
“Both sides have responsibility to follow through on the commitments made in Brussels and to look for new areas to keep the dialogue moving forward once that’s done — it can’t be the end, it should be the beginning,” he said. “This is critical for advancing Kosovo and Serbia’s full integration into Europe.”
Speaking before Biden, Thaci thanked the U.S. vice president — a strong supporter of Kosovo during its struggle for independence — for being “the voice” of Kosovo.
Thaci said Kosovo had strengthened peace and regional cooperation and made steps toward normalizing ties with Serbia.
He insisted that good-neighborly relations with Serbia were a “strategic goal” for his country, which he pledged would not remain “a prisoner of the past.”
After talks with Kosovar President Hashim Thaci in Pristina, Biden traveled south and dedicated a road to his son Beau, who died of brain cancer last year. Beau had worked as a legal adviser in Kosovo in the late 1990s, and his father said he “grew to love the people.”